DEC to North Country hunters: Safety first this hunting season
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 5:36 pm

With several hunting seasons underway and the start of big game season just weeks away, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding hunters in St. Lawrence County to put safety at the forefront of their actions this fall when going afield.

They are emphasizing “The 4 Rules of Firearm Safety”:

• Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

• Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

• Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

• Always be sure of your target and what is beyond. Once you pull the trigger, you can’t take the bullet back.

They also encourage every hunter to wear blaze orange or pink. Wearing orange or pink prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in your direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. State law requires hunters age 14 and 15 and their mentors who are hunting deer or bear with a gun to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink visible from all directions: a shirt, jacket, or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50 percent orange or pink) or a hat with at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.

In the last 10 years, not one person wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York, DEC says. The majority of big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.

Tree stands can present a hazard. Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting related injuries and fatalities in New York. In 2017, DEC Commissioner Seggos requested the agency's Environmental Conservation Police Officers to track and investigate tree stand injuries for the first time. They looked at 12 tree stand accidents last year, half of which proved to be fatal. All 12 accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or the harness was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities, DEC advises.

When hunting in tree stands they suggest using a full body safety harness and a climbing belt, and staying connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down, as most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand.

Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm, they warn.

Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before using a tree stand and check stands every season, including straps and chains, replacing any worn or missing parts.

They say it is a good, idea to let a reliable person know where you will be hunting and when you will return. A map showing your tree stand location makes it easier for others to find you if you do not return on time.

The DEC also wants to remind hunters that the legal hours for big game hunting across the state run from official sunrise to sunset. It is the responsibility of hunters to know when those times are in their locations. Consult the DEC hunting guide, use the DEC wildlife app or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for your area. Not only is it unsafe but it is illegal to hunt deer and bear in the dark, DEC warns.

Hunting is a physical sport. Every hunting season is marred by hunters who suffer heart attacks and strokes, so DEC recommends staying fit. In addition, hunters should always be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts, and pack emergency supplies.

DEC requires every hunter to take a Hunter Education Course free of charge before they can receive a license to hunt. Since New York's Hunter Education Program was first introduced in 1949, the number of hunting-related accidents has declined by 80 percent, and hunting safety statistics continue to improve.

For more information on these and other hunting safety tips, visit DEC's website and watch a video about hunter safety and tree stand safety for more tips on how to prevent accidents.